Containment accelerates new customer relationship practices
In this period of global containment, we are invited to review our behaviors and our modes of interaction. The only window, still open to the world and others, remains social media. They are revealing a whole new importance today. These invasive and addictive modes of communication have become an almost vital necessity.
Social media has only established itself as a vector of transformation in our societies in just a decade. They have changed the way we operate, study, communicate, and of course interact. Social media has itself changed dramatically during this decade. Not always for the best. They are far from the virtuous promise that many imagined at the start.
The question is therefore: Are we going for the better or should we expect the worse?
Promising beginnings – federating communities of interest.
When social media first appeared, it was a dramatic change from one-way to two-way communication. Individuals were connected to one another individually but remotely. A spirit of community of interest could emerge without going through physical relay structures. But, as people flocked to the platforms, brands realized that they had the opportunity to get closer to their customers. They were able to implement individualized marketing strategies that were much more effective than with traditional media. The simplicity only lasted a while. Very quickly, traditional marketing behaviors resurfaced as social media began to look for ways to generate more income.
So farewell to the sweet utopia of communities of desire, interest, respectful individual marketing. And hello to the race for gigantism, hegemony, ubiquitous advertising and paying services. Marketing experts have started applying the old recipes of traditional marketing: From low-end online contests, to the creation of flashing and invasive banners, through self-proclaimed celebrities acting as gondola ends…. Under the impetus of the platforms themselves, we have also seen advertisers minimize the importance of qualitative and original customer engagement, in favor of quantitative audience maximization strategies.
By favoring only the “media” dimension of these platforms, many seemed to forget all the opportunities contained in the term “social”. The promise to make the best use of the links created between groups, brands, consumers, an eco-system.
But it would be a mistake to assume that all the changes are going the wrong way.
It was obvious that social media betting on connections alone would be hard pressed to find a virtuous business model. In addition, for advertisers who had previously targeted millions of people in a given national market without much discrimination, the opportunity was too good to optimize their media purchases.
But it would be wrong to say that the move to more advertising-oriented social media would be bad. Providing content more effectively to people based on their interests allows for more relevant and engaging interactions than the old-fashioned “watering” approach. Obviously, many social media campaigns seem to be more effective than conventional media – so it works.
From a user perspective, if we accept that platforms have to make money and that advertising is inevitable, targeting helps make the experience more relevant.
Finally, we must recognize that communities of interest remain dynamic on social media. In these troubled times, each of us can find enormous value in specific Facebook groups. The ability to connect via social media is clearly still there – and always in demand – by individuals.
Social containment forces businesses and customers into a new digital age.
A multitude of traditional businesses that once hesitated to adopt digital technologies are now forced to do so for their own survival. This is the case for the liberal professions, for the paper press forced to reduce printed editions and to speed up digital operations, for sports coaching, performance halls, and brick & mortar retail. We can imagine that this period will have a lasting impact on customer-supplier relationships in the future, or even business models! Going all virtual is certainly not on the agenda. But the current period could open up new markets or new channels, creating new experiences for many businesses.
Struck by the decline in their activity, businesses will probably focus more on the need to retain their existing customers on a lasting basis. This will impact the transformation of their marketing in the long term. There are many opportunities: creation of communities of interest, integration of customers into their internal processes, whether they are quality, innovation or marketing. In recent days, numerous initiatives have appeared, offering solidarity and support actions around the globe. Many brands have sent compassionate messages to their customers or offered support to hospital professionals. They sought to reassure and even celebrate the commitment of their employees.
These companies rightly recognize the value of individual internal and external commitment in the continuity of their activity. From external and immaterial, the transformation today becomes internal and probably structural over time.
To those who regretted the disappearance of the idealistic utopia of social media from the beginning. The current period brings new hopes. After all, technology and platforms are just a means not a goal. It is appropriate for each of the actors to keep control of their strategies. To refuse the ease and above all the complacency represented by quantitative communication tactics. Everyone can choose today to reinvest the field of direct, qualitative and original relationship with their customers, suppliers and employees.